Balanced Wisconsin fends off St. John's

Five Badgers players hit double figures in 80-70 win

NCAA Tournament

March 16, 2002|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - In a matchup between need and luxury, luxury won out last night as Wisconsin's balance played a major role in its 80-70 win in a first-round NCAA tournament East Regional game at MCI Center.

Need was St. John's reliance on Baltimore native and leading scorer Marcus Hatten, who scored 28 points on the day after his grandmother's funeral, but made only five of 19 shots in the second half. Save for a short spurt by Anthony Glover, no one responded for the Red Storm (20-12).

Luxury is knowing that if one player gets cold, others can emerge. This happened for the Badgers (19-12) who were led by Kirk Penney's 19 points and had four others in double figures, including 18 points from reserve guard Freddie Owens.

"We've had guys get hot in streaks, then the defense will adjust - we won't force anything, so they'll share with someone else," said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, in his first Division I tournament after winning four national titles at Division III Wisconsin-Platteville. "I have a strong inclination to have five or six guys in double figures. That's not unusual."

St. John's, which entered the game coming off the suspension of reserve guard Willie Shaw, used sharp shooting from Hatten early - nine points in the first six minutes - and led 26-24 after his turnaround jumper with 5:36 left in the first half.

However, the Badgers scored 12 straight points near the end of the first half - led by Charlie Wills (10 points) - to take a 38-29 lead with 14 seconds left.

"We just stuck our heads down, got focused and did what we needed to do," Penney said.

Down 38-31 at the half, the Red Storm seemed to be on the way back early in the second half, with Glover getting nine of his 17 points during an 11-2 run that closed Wisconsin's lead to 48-46 on a pair of free throws by Eric King with 12:30 remaining.

But Wisconsin did not allow St. John's much in the way of continuity, and responded with 13 of the next 15 points. A three-pointer by Travon Davis eliminated the Red Storm threat, giving the Badgers a 61-50 lead with 7:45 left in the game.

While hot in the first half, Hatten cooled considerably in the second, missing nine of his first 11 shots.

Owens said his team's vigilance in getting a hand up accounted for Hatten's slump.

Despite Hatten's rough night, St. John's coach Mike Jarvis lauded his junior guard, given the circumstances under which he played.

"On a bad night, Marcus Hatten is better than most people," Jarvis said. "He did what most people wouldn't even attempt to do."

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